Notes: Kuwata fulfills lifelong dream

Notes: Veteran Kuwata fulfills lifelong dream

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Eighteen years of hard work came together when Masumi Kuwata took the mound for his first Major League appearance.

He was a veteran and a rookie all at once. He was nervous, but it didn't show. He was smaller, and at the same time overpowering. He stood stern-faced on the mound, but wore an ear-to-ear smile in the locker room afterward.

His dream was fulfilled, nearly two decades after he began pursuing it.

"I just said to myself, 'Thank you to the God of baseball,'" Kuwata said. "I was so excited. I said thank you for everybody and everything. In my mind, I said that anything can happen. I'm going to pitch today in Major League Baseball."

When he was 20 years old, Kuwata was living in Japan and was teammates with former Major Leaguer Bill Gullickson, who shared with Kuwata the excitement of American professional baseball. It was Gullickson, Kuwata said, who planted the seed about a career overseas.

Now 38, Kuwata was understandably emotional beforehand and after his outing. He admitted to taking deep breaths before throwing, and said at the time he was out there he wasn't concerned with the results so much as the experience.

"It was the first time I took the mound, so I was just enjoying every moment," Kuwata said. "I just tried to pitch my style."

Perhaps it was because his worries were elsewhere, but the right-hander threw a devastating slider on Sunday, fanning two of the three Reds he faced in the 14-pitch third inning. One of his victims during the Pirates' 10-4 loss was Scott Hatteberg, a notoriously hard player to ring up, who did so less than nine percent of the time last season (41 strikeouts in 456 at-bats).

Kuwata was impressed upon learning this, but for him personally, and the horde of Japanese media that's been tailing him since he was in high school (whose numbers were 50-plus during his debut), it was the significance of the event that really mattered.

"It was a dream come true, you know?" he said. "I just want to do my best. If I don't make the Opening Day roster, I will never give up. I will never give up."

Finally, an answer: Xavier Nady finally received word back from Allegheny General Hospital that his abdominal discomfort was caused by an infection of his intestine, and not anything more serious or chronic, such as Crohn's Disease, which had previously been feared.

Nady, 28, is cleared now to throw, field and hit for the first time since Feb. 19, the day before he was admitted to the hospital with severe stomach pains. Since then, he's undergone a litany of blood tests as well as a colonoscopy back in Pittsburgh in order to determine the nature of his sickness.

General manager Dave Littlefield said Nady was progressing daily.

"Since he started taking his medicine, he's continually felt better... progress has been made for about a week or so," Littlefield said.

Also ailing: Tracy expects Nady to see game action by the end of the week, although he isn't sure when. Tracy added that Jason Bay would return about the same time. Bay, the starting left fielder, had arthroscopic knee surgery in November.

Jose Castillo's right foot was taped up prior to workouts on Sunday morning, but he said he should be OK in a couple of days. Castillo also said he'd get X-rays on Monday, just as a precaution. The third baseman jammed the right, front side of his foot on Saturday while sliding hard into second base in an attempt to break up a double play.

Nick Green was still limping noticeably on Sunday, five days after he sprained his right big toe during the Pirates' warm-up game against Manatee Community College. There was no word on when he'd return.

"I sprained my toe, isn't that stupid?" he said. "I've never heard of it before it happened."

In the morning: Paul Maholm had some difficulties out of the gate during his first Spring outing, with three earned runs in the first inning, but settled in to toss two scoreless innings following, and finished with four strikeouts -- three of them looking.

Up next: The Pirates will travel to Dunedin on Monday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Blue Jays. Left-hander Zach Duke gets the ball for the Pirates, and he'll face Toronto right-hander Josh Towers.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.